Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Written by Jon.
Oddly enough this story starts at the Savemore down the end of Pasong Tamo, right on the edge of the glittering core of Makati, where the fringes start to fray. The one next to the Magallanes flyover with the sad plaza underneath covered in grime from jeepneys belching black smoke. The usual wall of noise that hits you from standing outside in Manila is doubled there. Growling engines, all the clamor of horns, highways in four directions, and the thunder of the MRT and thousands of cars rumbling by overhead, a storm of sound assaulting you.
We’re counting out peso coins from the jumble in my pocket in the dingy yellow light with those old sick colored off-white floor tiles every interior designer mysteriously thought was a good idea in the ‘70s. The people in line all have shopping carts filled with processed foods. Entire histories of deprivation and malnutrition writ in bulk purchases of instant noodles and Nestle three-in-one one packet at a time. 63 pesos scrounged one peso at a time to buy a single can of off-brand corned beef because we’re hungry and payday’s still a couple of days away.
Hannah’s on a lark, having a laugh at our little adventure and I’m laughing too, but really I’m feeling pretty damn grim. Flashbacks of ‘hood Pathmarks in Jersey City and the rickety house with the leaky roof and the grey concrete yard are hitting a little too close to home. Scrounging change for scraps to eat alone is hard enough on my pride.
In Tel Aviv all that brave-face laughing seems a long way away. We’re on the wing again. Hannah’s just back from six weeks gone, her dream grant finished. The day we arrive the streets are filled with artisans hawking their self-made wares, clever toys with literary references, jewelry, paintings, buskers and their acts, and we’re strolling easy through stone streets stopping at cafes for day-time glasses of Gewürztraminer.
For both of us, the Mediterranean rolling softly up to seaside stone houses facing west can tell us about our common faith, vindicated. Here we are. In some ways, it feels like we made it.
Streets, food, wine, and a lot of catching up after what felt like forever! It was lovely. I am grateful.
A few personal photographs from Tel Aviv, 2014.
Monday, April 21, 2014
Between Israel and Palestine is a large grey Wall. Like the walls I read about in books as a young girl. I don't think the Israel-Palestine conflict became real to me until I saw it--8 meters high (more than twice the Berlin Wall) aggressively standing, with men with guns looking over to the streets below in their watchtowers.
The West Bank is a beautiful place. We walked the walls of Jericho, the world's oldest city. We found Banksy's work in the streets of Bethlehem, which doesn't feel like a little town. And I accidentally got baptised in the river Jordan, while photographing Ethiopian Orthodox priests as they blessed people.
But my favourite part was the fleeting moments we got to spend walking around the streets. Through the markets in Ramallah, tasting the sweets and the berries. Everywhere, people would greet us. 'Welcome to Palestine.'
Between Israel and Palestine is a wall. And on both sides of the wall, we found good people. I know nothing is simple, but I continue to hope that that goodness we saw will somehow prevail.
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
Special thanks to Abraham Hostels Jerusalem and our Palestinian guide for taking us to a place we would have otherwise not gone to on our own. We are sincerely grateful.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
'We are in the walls of a city that has never known peace,' the priest says.
I walked with Jon from the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday yesterday. It felt as if we just walked right into the center of things after leaving Tel Aviv. We asked for instructions to the bus station to Jerusalem from this Filipino woman who told us we would find the terminal 'pag nakita niyo na yung mga naka paradang parang FX lang doon.' Then somehow we met a group of Filipinos on the bus from and they asked us if we wanted to join them on Palm Sunday at the Church of All Nations. And we said yes, because why not.
We didn't have a place to stay, so we walked with all our belongings--about 35 kilos of things on our back, for about 5 hours. No, we had no idea that we were about to walk into Jerusalem from where we were dropped off. We walked in the Holy Land with pilgrims from all over the world. They sang songs with melodies I knew in Catholic school but in languages I couldn't always identify. We followed the palm with a Philippine flag attached to it. Sometimes we would wander off. Look Jonny, it's Mary's birthplace, did you see the man dressed as Jesus? That IDF troop is really good looking....
And this all felt very strange because growing up with nuns in a Catholic school, the places I had read about in the Bible almost seemed fictional. Somehow I imagined Gethsemane to be a lost place in history. I don't think I ever dreamed of walking down the streets where Jesus walked. I never saw myself being surrounded by all sorts of nuns, while on the side of the road, little girls in hijabs pointed excitedly at the more unique habits. And the Israel Defence Forces lined the streets we walked in, with their boots and their guns, but always with tender smiles to return to us. They would ask us where we were from. Always gently...
Here we were, in disbelief, lost in a place and surrounded by people who believed many different things, in many different forms. And I walked with Jon behind them, past them, beside them. I hoped it was in the right direction. And then I said thank You.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
I've been meaning to tell you many things, but it's often easier to say in photographs. Words are strange things, and sometimes they talk too much. But I will try.
I'm learning to take things slow. Getting really used to the dirt on my feet and the cold baths and the long trips that I could only take for two or three days before I went insane. For two weeks I slept on cold floors and some days the only food would be rice and instant noodles over 80's power ballads. I didn't feel very strong. Long bus rides. Really, really, long boat rides. The moment that I put a lifevest on because I actually feared for my life. So many stories and I tell all of them by who I've become from it.
I think I'm in a place where I haven't really processed everything yet--I do what I have to at the time, and I pressure myself to do it well. My days are packed and when I do have a little space I try to do things to make myself remember some normalcy--a cup of coffee, an episode from a TV show. Music with old friends. I feel like I have to make some space for some introspection, but I feel so far removed from familiarity to comfortably do that. And perhaps that is okay.
It's been unusual? Special? Coming back home to my Philippines after half a year of being away. Going back to see the same places has been off-putting, and listening to myself tell people my own stories has been odd. But for the first time in my life I'm owning myself. I am not so foolish as to forget how lucky I am, and I'm in the part where I am trying to do the best that I can with the doors that have been opened for me. And to make sure they stay open. To make sure my heart is.
Oh tell me a story of magic and spiralling ships
And stars in the night
Monday, January 20, 2014
I would dream about India. A few years back, I dreamed of the Taj Mahal, and I woke up with goosebumps. In real life, we never saw the Taj Mahal. Perhaps that is best, maybe it's for the next time. It's been a little over a week since we were in India, and I'm back in my new home in Phnom Penh. It's a new year, but somehow it feels like the end of something.
The ending could have been anything. But we found this place, and we found the badlands, and in the badlands we found fields of yellow flowers. This is special to me. We went down the road and at the end of it is a palace, a fortress, places you can explore and pretend in. Where maharajahs slept, where maharanis chattered. We walked in the streets and into the havelis, where the palace looks upon the whole land. I remembered a time I never knew, a time when life was set in places of fables and fantasy. Thought about how it still was. Sat on rooftops and watched children fly their kites. Looked for the trees where the kites went to die. Got on a rickshaw and rode away, into the sleepy little towns where everyone is sitting and is wanting a photograph. The doors are open and they ask you to come have chai in their homes. Where peacocks walk the streets and do their silly little dances. Men in their turbans and women in their sarees and children in their laughter. The houses are painted in many different colors and the people are, too.
Gandhi says India lives in her villages, so we went to find her there. I don't think my search is over, but I found more than what I had asked for. I always do, when I decide to take a look. But taking a look is not always as easy as I thought it would be.
It wasn't until Jon and I were driving away from the Bangkok airport that I realised how leaving India felt like an ending. That's what these places mean to me. It is with disbelief that I write this. In the last four months I was in seven countries, and with eyes closed and a lot of fears, I moved from one to the other. I left my home for 23 years. The urgent wanderlust I used to feel has been replaced with conflicting feelings of gratitude, travel frustrations, and then missing home. And in between all of that is the quiet. We found it in these unreal places.
Bigger photos and final edit on hannah.ph/rural-rajasthan
All images © Hannah Reyes